Travel industry apps, websites continue to play catch-up

voice recognition for mobile phones
Travel apps lag far behind customer financial apps in satisfaction, according to new research from J.D. Power. Photo credit: Pixabay

When it comes to customer satisfaction, many of the travel apps and websites created by legacy hotel, airline and rental car brands are lagging those of digital native online travel agencies and travel industry disruptors, such as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb, new research finds. But that’s not all. According to the newly released J.D. Power "2019 U.S. Travel App Satisfaction Study" and the J.D. Power "2019 U.S. Travel Website Satisfaction Study," all travel industry websites—even those operated by digital natives—score substantially lower in customer satisfaction than high-scoring websites in other industries, such as credit cards.

"Travel apps and websites have become primary conduits through which consumers experience travel, such as searching for a hotel, booking a rental car and getting real-time flight status updates," Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, said in a statement. "Given the crucial role they play, many travel apps and websites are still too complex for consumers to navigate and do not offer the most helpful information at the right time. One hotel website, for example, requires 29 separate actions across five different pages to make a reservation. That’s not good enough when customers are experiencing simple, elegant, seamless experiences in their banking and credit card apps and websites."

Travel apps especially lag far behind customer financial apps in satisfaction, according to the study. Airline, online travel agency, hotel and rental car apps all trail the highest-scoring credit card apps when it comes to overall customer satisfaction. Overall satisfaction with travel apps is lowest for airline apps, which score 854 (on a 1,000-point scale). This compares with an average score of 872 for overall credit card customer satisfaction, the study showed.
 
Similar to satisfaction with mobile apps, overall satisfaction with hotel, airline, rental car and online travel agency websites is substantially lower than those of credit card, banking and insurance industry websites. As an example, the average overall satisfaction score for rental car websites is 827, the lowest of all travel industry categories. This compares with a score of 863 for credit card websites.
 
The J.D. Power info also shows that customer satisfaction with travel websites substantially increases when customers say the process of making a reservation was quicker than expected. Still, many travel websites contain multistep processes and fewer than 20 percent of customers report a quicker-than-expected reservation experience.
 
Helpful notifications provided by a travel app can add upwards of 92 points to overall satisfaction, according to respondents, but the challenge comes with the execution of those notifications. For example, including concise accompanying text such as "tap to view boarding pass" can be much more effective than simply sending an electronic boarding pass with no descriptive text.
 
While digital native OTA brands tend to deliver the most satisfying website experiences and rental car brands tend to perform better in mobile apps, some top-performing airline, hotel and rental car companies deliver strong user experiences and high levels of customer satisfaction across both web and app channels, according to J.D. Power.

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Travel App Rankings

According to the new research, IHG ranks highest in overall customer satisfaction among hotel apps with a score of 870. Hilton Honors (866) ranks second and World of Hyatt (865) ranks third.

Orbitz ranks highest in overall customer satisfaction among OTA apps with a score of 870. Travelocity (867) ranks second and Expedia (856) ranks third.

Travel Website Rankings

Choice Hotels International ranks highest in overall customer satisfaction among hotel websites with a score of 841. Best Western Hotels & Resorts (840) and Hyatt Hotels (840) rank second in a tie.

Booking.com ranks highest in overall customer satisfaction among OTA websites with a score of 847. Priceline (846) and Travelocity (846) rank second in a tie.

The "2019 U.S. Travel Website Satisfaction Study" and "2019 U.S. Travel App Satisfaction Study" evaluate satisfaction with travel apps and websites, respectively, across four segments: airline, hotel, OTA and rental car. Both studies explore the key variables that influence customer choice, satisfaction and loyalty based on five factors: clarity of information provided, ease of navigation, overall appearance, speed of screens/pages loading and range of services/activities. The travel app study is based on 12,410 evaluations from users of airline, hotel, OTA and rental car apps. The travel website satisfaction study is based on 13,424 evaluations from users of airline, hotel, OTA and rental car websites. Both studies were fielded in August and September 2019.

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